India and Myanmar relations: Change in dynamics by democratic triumph

After decades of struggle, finally democracy triumphed over military junta and Myanmar parliament enters democratic era after 54 years of military rule. It’s time to glance over India-Myanmar relations and how India will be benefited from such stable democratic government.

India and Myanmar have traditionally had much in common, with cultural, historical, ethnic and religious ties, in addition to sharing a long geographical land border and maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal. Let’s see it in brief!

How did India and Myanmar engagement begin ?

  • Myanmar is India’s bridge to east, and an important ally for growing its regional power.
  • India and Myanmar’s relationship officially got underway after the Treaty of Friendship was signed in 1951.
  • For many years, India did not open up to the authoritarian regime, and it was only over a period of time that India started engaging with the military junta of Myanmar.
  • The region’s focus has revolved around the SAARC countries and China, Myanmar is becoming increasingly important for India in both a strategic and economic context.

What about bilateral trade ties?

  • Bilateral trade has grown from $12.4 million in 1980-81 to $2.18 billion in 2013-14.
  • Agricultural items like beans and pulses and forest based products make up nearly 90 percent of India’s imports.
  • Myanmar is also the beneficiary of a duty-free tariff preference scheme for least developed countries (LDCs).
  • Both countries also signed a border trade agreement in 1994 and have 2 trade points along their 1,643 km border.
  • India has also promoted some trade events such as the India Product Show 2012, which represented 19 Indian companies.

But, How shared cultural links promote unique relations between both countries?

  • The two countries have shared cultural exchanges through various cultural troupes.
  • One such exchange was in 2009 when Myanmar sent a 13 member student group that attended a SAARC cultural festival in India.
  • This was followed by another major event at which the Indian embassy in Yangon organized the annual Indian Film Festival, which is a major event on the Yangon cultural calendar.

Does India have historical bond with Myanmar?

  • Yes! Yangon was once a center for India’s independence struggle.
  • The Indian National Army (INA), formed by Indian nationalists during World War II in 1942 with the motto of Ittehad, Itmad aur Qurbani (Unity, Faith and Sacrifice).
  • Comprised over 40,000 soldiers, who fought valiantly against the British imperialist forces.
  • Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose became leader of the INA in 1943 and undertook a groundbreaking march towards Indian territories from Burmese soil with the aim of achieving Indian independence.<This time we can expect question on Netaji and his work, as we know current happenings about Netaji’s files declassified>
  • General Aung San, Burma’s independence hero, was a close friend of Netaji, the supreme commander of the INA.
  • That friendship was reflected in cordial relationship between the soldiers of the INA and their counterparts in the Burmese National Army (BNA).
  • So, it’s good to use this historical bond for building more coherent and strong relations with Myanmar.

How Myanmar is Strategically significant to India?

  • Myanmar is strategically important to India as it is the only ASEAN country that shares a land border with India.
  • It is also the only country that can act as a link between India and ASEAN.
  • Myanmar is India’s gateway to Southeast Asia and could be the required impetus to realize India’s Look East Policy.
  • India has also decided to upgrade the Kalewa-Yargyi road segment to highway standard.
  • Myanmar would develop the Yargyi-Monywa portion, and this would help to connect Moreh in India to Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar.
  • This in turn would improve India’s connectivity and relationship with both Myanmar and Thailand.

How can India become regional pivot in Asia?

  • If India is to become an assertive regional player in Asia, it has to work toward developing policies that would improve and strengthen it domestically.
  • This will encourage more confidence in its ability to lead the region and be an important global player.
  • Competition with China should also be considered and taken seriously. As China’s growing influence in the region would lead to a more one-sided dynamic in the region.
  • China has asserted itself through its soft power as well as through its trade and economic relations with Myanmar by taking up large infrastructure projects in the country.
  • India on the other hand needs to use its soft power more effectively, and at the same time strengthen itself domestically and regionally.

What are advantages that India has over China with regard to Myanmar?

  • One is the democratic process, which results in different governments at the center and states through free and fair elections.
  • There is also the respect for institutions that are strong enough to hold the country together.
  • Finally, cooperation in different multilateral forums such as ASEAN and BIMSTEC strengthen the relationship between the 2 countries.
  • Apart from these reasons, India has sent a clear signal that while economic ties are important, it is keen to build a holistic relationship and is prepared to assist in institution building in Myanmar.

What is the significance of Connectivity in India-Myanmar Relations? 

<How North-Eastern region can play vital role in this?>

  • Myanmar’s vast oil and natural gas reserves and other resources make it a natural partner for many countries in the world.
  • India, being its next door neighbour, cannot be indifferent to this reality.
  • Besides, geo-political considerations, historical and civilizational links, and the ethnic overlap across their borders, have all come together to make India’s North-East the land bridge between the South and South-East Asia through Myanmar.
  • The 1,640 km-long border between Myanmar and the Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram signifies the importance of this eastern neighbour for India.
  • India expects to reap various economic benefits by bolstering bilateral trade and investment, which critically depends upon better connectivity in the region.

How bilateral cooperation agreement gives impetus to India’s Look-East Policy?

  • The strategic location of Myanmar is pivotal to India in reaching out to the economically vibrant South-East Asian countries.
  • India’s Look-East Policy envisages building infrastructure and expanding the transportation network including railroads, aimed at furthering surface connectivity in the region.
  • It is recognized that in addition to more economic contacts, such connectivity will promote social stability in the region by facilitating people-to-people contact amongst trans-border ethnic groups.
  • It is expected that insurgent outfits would lose their recruitment base once the local resources begin to be exploited and employment is generated leading to overall development. 
  • Concrete economic benefits are expected to come up in the region with establishment of border haats.
  • In addition, internal trade routes have the potential to enhance accessibility to sub-regional markets that connect Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan.

Way forward

  • The basic foundation for the relationship between India and Myanmar has been laid by previous governments, the onus is on the present Indian administration to demonstrate that it can take the relationship to a higher level.
  • India can become a strong regional player through a more proactive approach, cement India’s place in the region and grow into a powerful, global country.

 

 

Published with inputs from Arun

Any doubts?


India-Myanmar border: Panel may not curb free movement within 16 km

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: FMR

Mains level: Suggestions of the panel are crucial for country’s border security in the North-East.


News

Government panel set up to study gaps on the India-Myanmar border

  1. It may suggest not to restrict free movement of Indian and Myanmarese citizens within 16 km of the border as allowed before
  2. But will recommend strengthening border security to prevent infiltration
  3. Also, the panel may suggest that Indians going and staying in Myanmar under the bilateral agreement may be allowed to stay for 72 hours, unlike 24 hours at present
  4. India allows Myanmarese nationals to stay for 72 hours without a visa

Reason behind this move

  1. It is a measure to upgrade security amid the mass exodus of Rohingyas from Myanmar

What is Free Movement Regime (FMR)?

  1. The FMR permits the tribes residing along the border to travel 16 km across the boundary without visas

[op-ed snap] Embrace the Rohingya

Image result for Rohingya

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

“Both morally and legally, India cannot deport refugees facing a grave threat in Myanmar.” Critically comment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Rohingya

Mains level: India-Myanmar relations


News

Context

  • Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju stated that the Indian government will detect and deport the Rohingya back to Myanmar

Why?

  1. Illegal immigrants” — including 14,000 Rohingya are “susceptible” to recruitment by “terror” groups
  2. They “not only infringe on the rights of Indian citizens but also pose grave security challenges”.

Deportation of the Rohingya is legally untenable- Reasons

  1. Indian government, like any other in the world, is bound by customary international law to respect the principle of non-refoulement.
  2. As per this law, No government, can forcibly push back asylum-seekers to the country they have fled to escape violence, as it might endanger their very survival.
  3. Not being a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol is no excuse to abdicate India’s responsibility to provide much-needed succour to people under duress and in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
  4. There are several Supreme Court verdicts which disallow the Indian government from arbitrarily and summarily deporting refugees from its territory.
  5. The courts in India have traditionally upheld the rights of refugees facing deportation or forced eviction in different contexts by taking recourse to what is called the “canon of construction” or a “shadow of refugee law”.
  6. For example, the Right to Life under Article 21 of the Indian Constitution has been so interpreted by the SC that it can be extended to anyone living in India irrespective of her nationality.

Is deportation morally correct?

  1. Rohingya face an imminent threat to their lives in the wake of the ongoing “ethnic-cleansing” drives in the Rakhine State, Myanmar
  2. Various reports — by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch etc — point to the Rohingya undergoing gross human rights violations at the hands of Myanmar’s armed forces in the name of counter-insurgency operations.
  3. Prime Minister’s decision to underplay the impending refugee crisis by choosing instead to express solidarity with Myanmar’s “extremist concerns” on his maiden visit there could only be described as politically naïve.
  4. This is further evidenced by India’s refusal to sign the subsequent “Bali Declaration” which unequivocally condemned the unfolding refugee crisis in the Rakhine State.
  5. Silence by Asia’s most experienced democracy in the wake of a fast deteriorating humanitarian crisis does not bode well for the future of human rights in the region.
  6. It might only embolden the Myanmarese security forces to further intensify the crackdown on the hapless Rohingya.
  7. It is time India rises to the occasion by transcending the politics of pragmatism and embraces the Rohingya refugees.

 

India keeps off ‘Bali Declaration’

Image Source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not Much

Mains level: It is a hot topic these days. This article shows India’s stand on the issue.


News

Show of solidarity with Myanmar

  1. India has refused to be a part of a declaration adopted at an international conference here in Indonesia
  2. Why: According to government, as it carried “inappropriate” reference to the violence in Rakhine State from where 1,25,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh
  3. An Indian Parliamentary delegation, dissociated itself from the ‘Bali Declaration’ adopted at the ‘World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development’

[op-ed snap] Delhi to Yangon

Image result for modi's visit to myanmar

Image source

Note4students

Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.

Once you are done reading this op-ed, you will be able to attempt the below.

“Discuss about the bilateral issues that have the potential to transform the relationship between India and Myanmar”

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Kaladan multi-modal corridor, India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, Border haats

Mains level: India-Myanmar relations


News

Context

  1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Myanmar that begins today marks seven decades of diplomatic relations between India and Myanmar
  2. PM Modi’s visit to Myanmar is an opportunity to improve business and strategic ties and bolster the Look East policy.

 Official discussions during the visit

  1. It will cover security challenges along the border and various bilateral matters.
  2. Myanmar may also brief the PM on the peace process on ethnic affairs in the country to which Suu Kyi has attached great priority.
  3. The volatile situation in the Rakhine state is also likely to be discussed.

Broad sets of bilateral issues that have the potential to transform the relationship between India and Myanmar.

Strengthening the development cooperation framework.

  1. No other country has committed as much in grant-in-aid to Myanmar as India.
  2. These include four major connectivity projects – the Kaladan multi-modal corridor, repair of 69 bridges on the Tamu-Kalewa road and the construction of the 120-km Kalewa-Yargyi corridor, both of which are part of the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway, and the Rhi-Tiddim road in the Chin state bordering Mizoram.
  3. It is essential that the two countries immediately start negotiating transit and other agreements for the smooth movement of goods and vehicles for optimal use of the infrastructure

 India’s involvement in Capacity building in Myanmar.

  1. Six centres imparting training in diverse subjects, from English language to industrial skills, are running successfully in Myanmar.
  2. The Myanmar Institute of Information Technology set up in Mandalay with the collaboration of IIIT Bangalore has been a success with all its graduates finding ready employment.
  3. The Advanced Centre for Agriculture Research and Education set up in collaboration with India’s ICAR is a fine example of pooling research efforts on pulses and oilseeds.
  4. Myanmar’s government emphasising on higher education and vocational training, so more Indian-assisted institutions can come up in the country.
  5. Scholarships for undergraduates can work if a way is found to bridge the difference between the matriculation system of schooling in Myanmar and India’s 10+2 system.

Greater cooperation between Northeast India and Western Myanmar

  1. Four states in the Northeast share common borders with Myanmar’s Sagaing and Chin provinces.
  2. The Kaladan corridor also passes through the Rakhine state till it arrives at the Sittwe port developed by India.
  3. Businesses on both sides, especially SMEs in contiguous provinces, and the governments need to come up with action plans for transforming the evolving corridors into development corridors.
  4. Border trade through Tamu/Moreh and Rhi/Zhokhowthar needs to become more formalised with truly single-window clearances and easier currency arrangements.
  5. The border haats can energise exchange of local produce.
  6. Cross- border bus services can promote people-to-people connectivity.
  7. Cross-border trade in services can be boosted in sectors like medicine, diagnostics, or even education and training for which there is a large market.
  8. There is also potential for cooperation on larger initiatives, such as the sale of refined petroleum products from the Numaligarh refinery in upper Myanmar.
  9. Strengthening the border region cooperation project, implemented by India in Myanmar’s Chin and Naga areas, can help India in securing political and other support at the local-level in Myanmar.
  10. Such development initiatives could also prompt Myanmar to collaborate more in tackling the insurgency issue in Nagaland, particularly in a post-Khaplang scenario.

Expanding bilateral trade and investment.

  1. Bilateral trade between the two countries has, for long, remained at around $2 billion.
  2. India ranks fifth among Myanmar’s import sources and 10th among foreign investors
  3. The regulatory and economic environment has to evolve in Myanmar to enhance the comfort levels of business enterprises.
  4. Indian businesses could invest in the power, steel, automobiles and even textile sectors in Myanmar.
  5. The Myanmar would raise the issue of restrictions imposed by India limiting the import of pulses following a steep fall in domestic prices in India.
  6.  This could also be the time for both sides to explore the possibility of a bilateral agreement on the issue — as mooted last year.
  7. The two sides could also discuss basing this trade on letters of credit and direct shipment than having to go through Singapore.

India, Myanmar agree to enhance ties in a range of areas, including security and trade

  1. Event: Aung San Suu Kyi’s first visit to India after her party won the election in Myanmar
  2. Agreements: The two sides signed three agreements to boost cooperation in power, banking and insurance sectors
  3. They also decided to step up ties in areas of oil and gas, agriculture, renewable energy and health care
  4. Myanmar, considered one of India’s strategic neighbours, shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern States, including the militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur

History of Ethnic insurgency in Myanmar- II

  1. Main armed groups: Karen, Kachin, Shan and Wa
  2. The first uprising launched by ethnic Karen insurgents began shortly after independence & since then other ethnic groups have also taken up arms
  3. Skirmishes, particularly in northern zones where Kachin insurgents are fighting the army, have displaced more than 100,000 civilians since 2011 alone
  4. At least 100,000 more have sought refuge in squalid camps in neighboring Thailand, and are unlikely to return home until true peace takes hold
  5. The rebel armies control a patchwork of remote territories rich in jade and timber that are located mostly in the north and east along the borders with China and Thailand

History of Ethnic insurgency in Myanmar- I

  1. Why the fight? Various ethnic groups, for decades, have been fighting for autonomy while resisting Burmanisation
  2. Burmanisation: A push by the Burman ethnic majority to propagate its language, religion and culture in ethnic minority regions
  3. Panglong Agreement, 1947: Brokered by Ms. Suu Kyi’s late father, independence hero Gen. Aung San
  4. The deal granted ethnic minorities autonomy and the right to secede if they worked with the federal government to break away from Britain together
  5. Aung San was assassinated the following year and the deal fell apart
  6. Since then, ethnic groups have accused successive, mostly military, governments of failing to honour the 1947 pact, just before Myanmar gained independence from Britain the next year

Myanmar holds historic peace talks with ethnic groups

  1. Aim: Ending decades of separatist insurgencies that have claimed thousands of lives
  2. Context: Fight of ethnic groups since decades for autonomy
  3. Background: The previous military-backed government brokered individual truces with various insurgent groups and oversaw a ceasefire covering eight minor insurgencies last year that fell short of a nationwide deal

Myanmar swears in first civilian President in five decades

  1. News: Myanmar has sworn in Htin Kyaw, as the country’s first civilian President in more than 50 years
  2. He promises to change the charter which bars Suu Kyi from presidency
  3. Ms. Suu Kyi has been appointed as a minister in Mr. Htin Kyaw’s government
  4. Future: There is a hope of greater business with India, under a popularly elected leader and govt

Myanmar parliament elects Suu Kyi confidant Htin Kyaw as President

  1. News: Myanmar’s parliament elected Htin Kyaw, a close friend and confidant of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, the first Head of State
  2. Context: Ms. Suu Kyi led her National League for Democracy (NLD) to a landslide election win in Nov, but a constitution drafted by former junta bars her from the top office
  3. About Mr. Kyaw: He runs a charity founded by Suu Kyi and has been a trusted member of her inner circle since the mid-1990s
  4. Relevance: NLD’s sizeable majority ensured a comfortable win for Suu Kyi’s pick in a vote by both houses of parliament
  5. Secured Votes: Mr. Kyaw received 360 of the 652 votes cast, the parliamentary official counting the votes said
  6. Way ahead: Relations between the armed forces and Ms. Suu Kyi will define the success of Myanmar’s most significant break from military rule since the army seized power in 1962

Cabinet nod for building 69 bridges on trilateral highway in Myanmar

The Union Cabinet has approved the construction of 69 Bridges including Approach Roads on the Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa (TKK) road section of the Trilateral Highway in Myanmar.

  1. Cabinet nod for building 69 bridges on trilateral highway in Myanmar.
  2. TKK road section seeks to improve connectivity between India and Myanmar and facilitate movement of goods and traffic.
  3. The project will be implemented in Engineering Procuring and Construction (EPC) mode through Project Management Consultant (PMC).
  4. The project is envisaged to be completed by mid-2019 and is also part of the route for the proposed Imphal-Mandalay bus service.

Aung San Suu Kyi registers an emphatic win in Myanmar

  1. A quarter century after Myanmar’s generals denied Aung San Suu Kyi an election win, she led her party to victory.
  2. Suu Kyi, 70, and her party (NLD) are the longtime antagonists to the generals who ruled Myanmar from a coup in 1962 until 2011.

Union Cabinet gives approval for Kaladan Multi Modal Project in Myanmar

It will provide an alternate access route to India’s north east region and contribute towards the regional economic development.

  1. Objective is to create a multi-modal mode of transport for cargo shipment from the eastern ports of India to Myanmar.
  2. The strategic link will promote economic, commercial and strategic links between India and Myanmar as it will connect North-East, reducing pressure on the Siliguri Corridor.
  3. Project will connect Sittwe Port in Myanmar to the India-Myanmar border via roadway.
  4. It will provide alternative cost effective shortcut to landlocked north eastern states.
PIB

MHA, JIC chief differ on Myanmar border security

  1. There are some differences between MHA and Joint Intelligence Committee on the handling of security along the porous Myanmar border.
  2. JIC has suggested that the Assam Rifles, which is currently posted along the Myanmar border, be replaced by the ITBP.
  3. The Home Ministry has said that the could have serious financial and security-related implications.
  4. India and Myanmar share an unfenced border of 1,643 km permit a ‘free movement’ regime up to 16 km across the border.
  5. The border is shared by adjoining Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram.

 

The Assam Rifles functions under the Defence Ministry, but its administrative control is with the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Myanmar operation: Hot pursuit a message to all

  1. Indian Army carried out a covert operation deep inside Myanmar, killing several militants in two camps of northeastern rebel groups.
  2. Myanmar denied use of their border, as it could cause a controversy for the Myanmar government over sovereignty issues.
  3. The commandos of 21 Para regiment, equipped with assault rifles, rocket launchers, grenades and night vision goggles completed the operation.
  4. Govt. is planning to adopt a two-pronged strategy, first on offensive side to plan more strikes and other being defensive to counter retaliation.


:( We are working on most probable questions. Do check back this section.







Highest Rated App. Over 3 lakh users. Click to Download!!!